Physics Nobel for laser pioneers includes first woman in 55 years

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Arthur Ashkin of the United States won one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million or 870,000 euros) prize, while Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada shared the other half.

Wednesday: Nobel Prize in chemistry will be awarded.

The event also marks the third time in 55 years that a woman has won the Nobel Prize in physics.

The inventions by the three scientists date back to the mid-1980s and over the years they have revolutionized laser physics.

Arthur Ashkin is one of this year's Nobel prize winners in physics for the invention of optical tweezers.

Strickland said she was honored by the nomination but also emphasized the need for more female participation and acknowledgment in the field.

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Jim Al-Khalili, professor of theoretical physics at Britain's University of Surrey, said on Twitter it was "delicious" that Strickland had won the Nobel prize just days after Strumia's "misogynistic" comments.

Ashkin used his new tool to hold a particle in place, then an atom, and eventually, in 1987, a living bacterium. In research that would be used for Strickland's doctoral thesis, the pair manipulated beams of light to make them more powerful. With the Nobel, Donna Strickland became the third female recipient of the prize in physics.

Their invented technique - called chirped pulse amplification or CPA - became the standard for subsequent high-intensity lasers. Because laser beams could only be amplified so far before they destroyed the amplifying material, Strickland and Mourou chose to first "stretch" out a laser pulse, lowering its peak power by slowing it down. The technique relies on first stretching out short, energetic laser pulses in time, reducing their peak power and allowing them to be safely fed through an amplifier, after which they are finally compressed back to their original size-dramatically boosting their intensity.

Last year's prize was awarded to the trio of Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne for their work which led to the detection of gravitational waves: ripples in the fabric of spacetime, produced during violent events, such as the merger of black holes.

Despite a pervasive lack of official recognition for women scientists, Strickland said she has not personally experienced fundamental inequality and believes the field is ready to give women a more prominent place.

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